Accepted paper:

Designing a play for 'conversion': learning to perceive Krishna


Marje Ermel (Estonian Institute of Humanities, Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore the layered meaning of sound and body in the play of 'conversion' among the Krishna devotees in Estonia. The paper will argue that both bodily practices and sound play an insightful role in constituting the aesthetics accompanying the change in perception of self and place.

Paper long abstract:

How does it happen that 'the same' place does not sound the same? How does it happen that my 'body ' and 'self' does not feel the same as before? This paper will explore the meaning of body and sound in the play surrounding the idea of 'conversion' among Krishna devotees in Estonia. The notion of body has a contradictory meaning in the discourse and practice of Krishna devotees. In order to develop Krishna consciousness people have to realize that they are not 'these bodies' but 'pure souls'. However, in order to reach this stage of realization they have to follow certain bodily practices in order to acquire particular knowledge and purify their senses for experiencing Krishna as well as their own 'pure soul'. This paper will explore specific bodily practices that enable a person to 'learn' to perceive in a particular way and to change the perception of body and self. I will argue that these practices help to understand the particular aesthetics that is thought to accompany such change in perception. I will also argue that sound plays a significant role in the aesthetic transformation affecting the ways of perceiving one's self and place. In Hare Krishna discourse sound is believed to have a major impact on the process of purifying body and senses. I will argue that a Krishna devotee can be seen as an acoustic designer who, through singing, is simultaneously designing and perceiving a particular place, or designing and perceiving a play for 'conversion'.

panel P05
Aesthetics of conversion